As most of you know, I have been writing these posts for almost 4 years – in fact, next Thursday, on my 62nd birthday, it will be exactly 4 years since I started TBTB. And two of my strongest supporters have been my father and mother-in-law, John and Nancy Boyd. Their morning ritual was always the same – John would receive these posts by email and then he would print them out and read them to Nancy at breakfast each morning. They did this from the beginning – that is until Nancy unexpectedly passed away on August 25, 2013 – and John followed her 18 days later on September 12, 2013. Needless to say, it was quite a shock to the entire family. Janet and her sisters lost not one, but both, of their parents within several weeks. Of course, we were involved in both of the services in Williamsburg, VA and the family began the long journey of grieving their loss and learning about living life without parents who were a phone call away.
Now I realize that this is the course of life – at least, most of the time. Children become parents, then grandparents – and eventually they pass away; if they believe in Jesus Christ, they enter heaven and continue the eternal life they began when they accepted Christ as Lord and Savior of their lives. Each of the family members has felt this loss in one way or another – John was the patriarch of the family and Nancy never had an unkind word to say about anybody.
But lately, an odd thing has been happening. I am sure that there is some technical reason for the changes that have occurred, but several months ago, I started receiving a message in my email every evening when I sent out my posts. It was the return of each post that had been sent to John and Nancy’s email – firstname.lastname@example.org. I am used to receiving notices that a mailbox is full, or that the mail was sent to an unknown recipient, but these unopened emails have been returned with the note, “Recipient Unavailable…”
I have found this language most intriguing. Two days before he died, John and I had a conversation where we said our goodbyes to each other. I remember it well. It was a heartfelt talk where each of us expressed our love for the other, John expressed his desire for me to watch over and take care of his daughters; I, of course, promised that I would and soon our talk concluded with his expression that we would meet again some day in heaven. In all the times I have known people who were facing death, I have never admired anybody more than John and the conversation we had that day.
In a very profound way, it changed me. The thought that somebody was actually going to heaven and would be waiting for me to arrive was something that became incredibly real to me that day. And each day when I receive that haunting email note, “recipient unavailable”, I think about life in heaven and the fact that John is there waiting for the rest of the family to join him some day.
There is a biblical reference to a similar situation in the Old Testament. King David, after his sin with Bathsheba, watched his son die. David had fasted and prayed and hoped that God would spare his child, but that was not to be. When his son finally died, David dressed and ended his fast. Many scholars refer to this story when debating whether children who have not professed a belief in Jesus are in heaven or not. Obviously, David believe that his son had gone to be with God. Our verse for this evening highlights David’s comments after the death of his son. We are told, in 2 Sam. 12:23, “But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”
Now this very interesting passage tells us that David could not bring his son back, but eventually David would go to join him – in heaven… So there is precedent for John’s comments to me. He is currently unavailable to those of us here on earth – but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t exist in heaven. In fact, as Christians, we know that he will live eternally with God. He can’t come to us, but we will eventually be with him in the throne room of heaven worshipping Jesus and His Father.
My encouragement this evening is that you will celebrate the lives of loved ones who have gone ahead of us. My prayer is that we will all end well when the time is upon us to enter heaven. Furthermore, that we will have the courage to live well, love well and embrace the traits that Jesus so desperately wanted us to demonstrate here on earth – the Kingdom of God right here, right now. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…